Archerfield Wetlands, 2022

Summary: Excellent, large site for a variety of bird species, with good light and easy paths

Dates of visits: Oct 2021 to Oct 2022

Archerfield Wetlands is a sizeable site of 150 hectares featuring eucalypt forest, open grassland, freshwater wetlands and creeks. It lies on Oxley Creek, a few kilometres upstream from its well-known “big brother” birding site, Oxley Creek Common. Being a new site, one might hope it develops a similar pedigree!

The main path through the site is the Discovery Trail, delivered as part of the $100 million Oxley Creek Transformation project and it became accessible around April-May of 2022. It is nearly 3km long and runs roughly north-south. The path is flat and low-lying, and has three creek crossings, so might be impassable after flash flooding or heavy rain. I have also seen the north gate closed on occasion (presumably for this reason).

The car parking situation is unfortunately not great at Archerfield Wetlands, at least at the north end. The two best options to get as close as possible to the entrance are Riviera Court and Gleneagles Crescent (see map), which are accessed off Blunder Road (which is the main road coming off the Ipswich Motorway). Both of these suburban streets are narrow and I would advise parking with two wheels up on the kerb to avoid protruding too much on the road. A public transport alternative is to take a bus to Blunder Road and walk 10 minutes to the same spot.

I had been intrigued by Archerfield Wetlands before it was properly opened, as it had been birded sporadically according to eBird and the checklists seemed pretty decent. A quick visit to the north end in late October 2021 found a family of Tawny Frogmouths and a few common birds, but these were in the little section of park near Riviera Court and any further access into the wetland didn’t seem possible.

Fast-forward to April 2022 and a few pioneers shared on Facebook that the site was now properly open for birding. Since then the north end of Archerfield Wetlands has become my favourite section; it packs quite a punch in terms of diversity of habitat.

At the northern entrance, there is some grassland dotted with trees including some large figs, then a creek crossing quite soon with plenty of bushland on both sides. This area is great for magpies, lorikeets and cockatoos, Striated Pardalotes, and on Oct 4 2022 I even found a male Pacific Koel hiding in the canopy of a tree right by the path.

Following the curve in the path and heading south leads to a section where the first swampy wetland (named “First Lagoon” on the map) is (on the left). The water level can vary here quite a bit and it is chockers with dead trees and bushes.

When there is open water I have found Australasian Grebe, Egrets, Pacific Black Ducks and Grey Teals, as well as occasionally Reed Warblers. Red-Backed Fairywrens sometimes flit through too.

There is an enormous, gorgeous gum tree opposite this first lagoon (i.e. on the right of the path as you face south) which is worthy of a thorough scan. It can be good for Galahs, Rainbow Lorikeets, Sacred and Forest Kingfishers and various other birds.

The fence lines along here and the bushes and grasses just beyond the fence are terrific for the smaller birds. Red-Browed Finch are almost certain, while numbers of Double-Barred Finch and Chestnut-Breasted Mannikin – just as at Oxley Creek Common – tend to fluctuate.

On my visit in July 2022 I came across a group of half a dozen Double-Barreds who were adorably still waking up. I have also discovered Red-Broweds in a similar sleepy state when I’ve birded here early. It definitely pays to be here not too long after sunrise, especially in summer, and all along this stretch it is open enough that the morning sun can be conducive to great photography.

In winter months Grey Fantails are prevalent here and will often land on the fence lines and flit around the nearby trees and bushes.

White-Throated Gerygone are a special treat which I’ve seen occasionally (and heard much more often). Usually steely patience is required (and a decently long lens and a steady hand or tripod) to manage a decent shot of one of these elusive birds, which rarely come down from the mid/upper canopy.

The good birding continues round the next bend (curving just below First Lagoon) as the path turns to gravel and opens out with grassland and lantana becoming dominant. Finches and Mannikins are still found along here, and there is also a better chance for Silvereyes. All these small birds use the lantana for cover, and I once saw a Torresian Crow land right at the top of a lantana bush. I have also seen Buff-banded Rail and Brown Quail on the path and at the base of the lantana.

Fairywrens, of the Superb and Red-Backed variety, are usually active along this stretch and they almost rival Oxley Creek Common for numbers and friendliness. The openness of the track and its verges does mean that if a dog walker or bike rider comes along, your fairywrens are likely to spook away, which isn’t always the case at Oxley Creek Common.

At the end of this section the path crosses a creek (just before the track intersects the grassland area on the map). There is a large fig tree here with a handy bench seat underneath it.

Anywhere there is decent wild grass you’ll tend to find Golden-Headed Cisticolas and Tawny Grassbirds, and Archerfield Wetlands is no exception.

The Tawny Grassbirds tend to be a little more standoff-ish, and for both birds their frequency of calling and popping up onto exposed branches is probably seasonal (anecdotally, spring is best, perhaps…?)

As the grassland area is very open you’d expect to see some raptors now and again as well as flyovers of various birds. In the first few months of opening an Australian Hobby was seen regularly, though it seems to have moved on now, while I have also seen White-Bellied Sea-Eagles, Nankeen Kestrel and occasionally Whistling Kite. On my May 29 2022 visit I saw a Little Eagle (getting hassled by a Crow, but that’s not unusual!)

There is still a good chance of finches and mannikin as the track continues along the edge of the vast grassland section. On May 29 2022 I counted a total of 37 Double-Barred Finches, and 16 Red-Browed Finches and 15 Chestnut-Breasted Mannikin. These are decent numbers! Sometimes photographic possibilities are provided for these birds as they alight on the dead lantana and other bare branches thrusting up from the grass.

On the Oct 4 2022 visit (which was actually a Queensland Birds Twitchathon stop), there was a fox hurriedly crossing the path with what looked like a Swamphen in its mouth – a graphic reminder of the impact of introduced mammals.

To my mind the track is somewhat monotonous as it follows the grasslands south. I have often decided to turn back and maximise my time in the northern section rather than trekking this part and exploring the southern half. It is 6km return if you were to traverse the entire track from the northern entrance at Gleneagles Crescent/Riviera Court to Bowhill Rd and back.

There are a couple of dead gum trees on this grassland edge which I have seen hosting Rainbow and Scaly-Breasted Lorikeets as well as Dollarbirds, and on the left side where the bushes are quite dense I’ve heard Whipbirds and once had a few moments with a cute male Variegated Fairywren. All good, but it really depends on how much time you have and want to spend in these arguably lower-percentage areas compared to the rest of the site.

It is a solid 2km from the northern entrance until you reach the Lookout Trail, which is the only side-trail available off the main track. This is also a flat path, though it can get muddy after rain. The side trail is only a few hundred metres long and leads to a gap where you can attain a reasonably good view (a lookout, of sorts!) of the main watercourse which is otherwise surrounded by impenetrable reeds. There is a little seat here and another of the information panels that can be found here and there.

At the lookout I’ve seen Egrets and various ducks but I haven’t seen anything particularly interesting from this vantage point.

On my Apr 29 2022 visit I did see a Pheasant Coucal lurking in the grasses on the edges of this trail though.

It is a further 750m or so from the Lookout Trail turn-off to the southern entrance to Archerfield Wetlands on Bowhill Road. This section is paved and offers plenty more grassy stretches dotted with tall gums. I have noticed quite a lot of mistletoe on these trees (and consequently there are Mistletoebirds present, though they can be devilishly difficult to see). There are big plans for the Bowhill Road end, with an event lawn, basketball court, water play area and other facilities in the works (see here and in particular the Precinct Plan PDF).

Summary

Archerfield Wetlands is a very good birding location and at its best can provide experiences on a par with Oxley Creek Common – which is a very big recommendation! Most woodland birds in South-East Queensland can be found here at one time or another but it excels for fairywrens, finches and grassbirds. There are water birds as a bonus but other sites provide easier viewing of those species (I don’t think of this site as a “wetlands” principally – except for noting that the creek and lagoons attract all sorts of birds!)

One advantage Archerfield Wetlands has over OCC is that it is more open which is more conducive to golden-hour morning photography; on the other hand, it is right next to a busy little airport. More than once I have seen something flying at the tree line out of the corner of my eye and it has been a light aircraft of some kind. You should not let this or a few other small negatives stop you from discovering and enjoying Archerfield Wetlands – especially if you grow bored with Oxley Creek Common!

eBird:
Hotspot: Archerfield Wetlands (151 species)
Checklists for some of the visits: Apr 29, 2022 (51 species), May 29 2022 (58 species), Oct 31 2022 (35 species)
Bird Spots videos from this site: Red-Browed Finches, Red-Backed Fairywrens, Dollarbirds

Pluses and minuses:
+ Worthy (and less busy) contender to Oxley Creek Common as a premier Brisbane south-side birding hotspot
+ Flat, easy to walk paths with plenty of land to explore
+ Variety of habitats including grassland, various watercourses and bush/forest
– One long trail with only one side-trail
– Parking is tight especially at the northern end
– Aircraft activity from the nearby airport

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